NASCAR

Speed Reading: Greatest victory celebrations

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 
This year, I am enjoying the fact that we have seen genuine jubilation in victory celebrations from Carl Edwards' backflips to Tony Stewart's fence-climbing to Ron Hornaday's Victory Lane burnout in his Craftsman Truck ride at Atlanta. Those moments are what a victory celebration is supposed to look like. Pure, unadulterated joy. With those emotions still at the tips of our collective brain, I have been asked several times to recall the greatest NASCAR Victory Lane blowouts of all time.

So now, thanks to the pause of a rare off-week for the Nextel Cup Series, said list has finally been compiled. So grab a magnum of bubbly, get ready to spray it all over your neighbors, and read on.

10. Carl Flips Out — Atlanta 2005

Photo Gallery...
Edwards flips with Atlanta sweep

Nearly three months before his win at Pocono, Carl Edwards unveiled his gymnastics to the Nextel Cup world at the Atlanta Motor Speedway after edging Jimmie Johnson by a mere .028 seconds. What made it even cooler — and allowed us to overlook a shaky dismount — was that he had already flipped once during the same weekend, coming after his Busch Series victory the day before. Truck Series fans had been familiar with Edwards' acrobatics for some time, but the stunned fans of the big leagues were left with their jaws hanging open.

9. The King and The Prez Break Bread — Daytona 1984

After winning his 200th race on July 4 at Daytona, Richard Petty barely even saw Victory Lane. He was immediately whisked up through the grandstands and into the press box to shake hands with Ronald Reagan, the first sitting U.S. President to attend a NASCAR event.

After some handshakes and photo ops, the world's two most famous Republicans headed down to the garage for a genuine July 4 picnic.

Friday, 8/5 on SPEED
7 p.m. ET: Trackside
8 p.m. ET: NASCAR Live
8:30 p.m. ET: Craftsman Truck race

Saturday, 8/6 on SPEED
Noon ET: NASCAR Live
4:30 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup Happy Hour
5:30 p.m. ET: NASCAR Performance
6 p.m. ET: Busch qualifying
7:30 p.m. ET: SPEED News
8 p.m. ET: National Pit Crew Championship

Sunday, 8/7 on SPEED
11 a.m. ET: NASCAR This Morning
7 p.m. ET: SPEED News NASCAR Edition
8 p.m. ET: NASCAR Victory Lane

8. This One's For The King — Martinsville 1999

Jimmy Hensley was one of the all-time nice guys in the history of stock car racing. After blistering the short tracks of his native Virginia for years, Hensley made his Winston Cup debut in 1972 and his Busch Series debut in 1982.

When the Truck Series was born in 1995, Hensley fit right in with the bullring-based series. And in April 1999, he won on his home track, the Martinsville Speedway, in a Dodge Ram bearing the number 43 and owned by Richard Petty.

The 53-year old parked his pick-up in front of a delirious grandstand and climbed out onto the roof. Then Petty walked out onto the frontstretch with him and the two held hands in the air like a pair of boxers and waved to the crowd.

7. There's No Crying In NASCAR! — Charlotte 1994

Jeff Gordon spent the entire 1993 season playing the role of Kasey Kahne, coming oh-so close to his breakthrough first Cup win over and over again... but coming up short. When he finally did pull into Victory Lane at the end of the '94 Coca-Cola 600, he climbed up on the roof of the No. 24 Chevy and did something we had never seen before.

He cried like a baby.

"I still catch grief because of that," says the man who has added 71 more wins since. "But it was truly how I felt, and I don't regret it all. Trust me; I wasn't the only one crying out of happiness that night."

6. Pop Goes The Mikey — Talladega 2003

When NASCAR introduced a drag racing-style roof hatch, the idea was to give drivers a quicker exit from the car in case of a fire. But when Michael Waltrip won at Talladega in September 2003, he discovered an alternate use — a quicker exit to celebrate a Nextel Cup win.

He slid through the grass in front of the world's longest grandstand, and just when we were all waiting on his window net to drop, the roof popped open and the tallest man in the garage came out like a big blue jack-in-the-box.

5. The Polish Victory Lap — Bristol 1993

Alan Kulwicki unveiled his backwards victory lap after his first Cup win, coming at Phoenix in 1988. He did it six times in total, after five race wins and after nabbing his improbable 1992 Winston Cup title. Five months later, Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash on the way to defend his back-to-back wins at Bristol.

Rusty Wallace, a longtime rival and friend of Kulwicki's, won the Bristol race and proceeded to celebrate by turning his car around and running a Polish Victory Lap in Kulwicki's honor.

"I found myself wondering during the race how I would salute him if we won," Wallace said in a somber Victory Lane. "And I know there are a lot of fans out there who don't like me, but there was no one booing while I did that lap for Alan."

4. Million Dollar Bill — Darlington 1985

Bill Elliott won the 1985 Southern 500 in classic come from behind fashion, holding off Cale Yarborough and ending a pressure-packed summer by clinching the first ever Winston Million bonus. Awesome Bill won three of NASCAR's "crown jewel" races — the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 and the Southern 500 — and R.J. Reynolds cut him a check for the then-unheard of sum of one million smackeroos.

Standing in Victory Lane, the painfully shy country boy could only grin like a possum eating a sweet potato as a shower of fake million dollar "Bills" rained down.

3. Tony Crawls The Wall — Daytona 2005

Photo Gallery...
Stewart climbs to the top

Indy Car fans know that two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was the originator of "The Spider-Man", but in a lot of ways, Tony's nighttime Pepsi 400 ascent was even more impressive. Why? Because he had to haul a lot more up the fence.

"I figured that I had better do that now before I get too fat," says the man who admittedly eats at McDonald's almost every day. "As long as the fans like it as much they seem to and as long as I can pull it off, I will keep doing it."

And he has, after two of his three wins this season.

2. Greatest Burnout Ever — Richmond 2001

When Jack Sprague won the Kroger 200 at the Richmond International Raceway, the burnout craze was just beginning to get a lot of momentum in the top three NASCAR series. Stewart had just recently smoked the tires all the way around the Infineon Raceway, and rookie sensation Kevin Harvick spent all season one-upping himself between wins in the Busch Series and in Nextel Cup.

But after winning the Craftsman Truck Series event on September 6, 2001, all three series were in town to see him demolish his own truck on the RIR frontstretch.

"I think Jack sent a message that night," Jeff Gordon would recall several weeks later. "He spun the tires for so long [that] they completely blew apart and then he kept spinning the wheels until he set the entire bottom of his truck on fire. No one will ever top that burnout. No one. Ever."

1. The Monkey Off His Back — Daytona 1998

The great thing about Dale Earnhardt's celebration after finally winning the Daytona 500 is that, at one point, it looked like it was never going to stop. After a hand-extended victory lap, The Intimidator traveled the length of pit road high-fiving hundreds of opposing crew members who had lined up to congratulate him. He then carved a perfect "3" into the infield grass with celebratory donuts and finally headed to Victory Lane, climbing onto the top of his car and striking a two-armed pose that is now preserved forever in NASCAR lore.

A few minutes later, he met the press by producing a nasty little stuffed animal. It was a monkey, which he threw directly at the media horde and yelled, "There! Now that monkey is finally off my back!"


Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images. He can be reached at his e-mail address: rmcgee@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Jack Sprague

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